Bengal passes Bill to punish lynching with death penalty

The Bill, passed by voice vote, came after a series of lynching cases in the past few months in Kolkata and the districts. Rumours of child-lifters were also seen to be spreading in different areas, especially in North Bengal.

The West Bengal Assembly on Friday passed a Bill against lynching, providing for life imprisonment to those injuring a person and capital punishment for causing death.

West Bengal is now the second state in the country after Rajasthan to have passed an anti-lynching Bill.

Just like The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, the draft The West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, proposed life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5 lakh as the maximum punishment for someone whose act is found to lead to death of a person. However, capital punishment for causing death was inserted in the Bill that was tabled by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Assembly on Friday.

The Bill, passed by voice vote, came after a series of lynching cases in the past few months in Kolkata and the districts. Rumours of child-lifters were also seen to be spreading in different areas, especially in North Bengal.

The Bill carries punishment of jail term of three years to life imprisonment in cases of assault leading to injury, besides fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. In case of death, perpetrators can be punished with death sentence or rigorous life imprisonment and fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

A strong message with a stringent law

With the anti-lynching Bill, the Mamata Banerjee government aims to set an example on how to check such crime with an iron fist. Although Rajasthan was the first state to come up with such a Bill, the Bengal government has gone a step ahead and introduced the provision of capital punishment in case of death, making the Bill more stringent. The state government is thus sending a zero-tolerance message against lynching.

“Lynching incidents are social evils and all of us have to come together to fight against this evil. The Supreme Court has given direction to take action against lynching. The central government should have brought a law against it. But because it is yet to do so, we are bringing this law in our state. We need to raise awareness against incidents of lynching,” Banerjee said in the Assembly.

The Bill was supported by Opposition parties Congress and CPM, while the BJP neither supported nor opposed it in the House. However, outside the House, BJP legislature party leader Manoj Tigga said his party was opposed to the legislation. “It will be used to settle political scores against the BJP and other parties. The TMC government will use this Bill to silence the Opposition,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan (Congress), who supported the Bill, said, “We hope it will not be misused.”

According to the CM, the Bill aims to protect the constitutional rights of vulnerable people. “People are being lynched just on the basis of fake messages and rumours spread on WhatsApp groups. One cannot resort to lynching for personal enmity, on the basis of caste and religion, rumours of child-lifting or mere politics,” Banerjee said.

When the draft Bill was first circulated among lawmakers on Wednesday, it provided for life imprisonment as the maximum punishment. However, the legislation that was circulated and passed on Friday had death sentence as the maximum penalty.

The Bill says that anyone found guilty of publishing, communicating and disseminating any offensive material, either physically or electronically, leading to an incident of lynching, shall be liable to imprisonment up to one year and fine up to Rs 50,000.

It says the state police chief will appoint a coordinator, who will act as the nodal officer to monitor investigation and take measures to prevent lynching and mob assault.

The Bill also has provisions for punishment of those who obstruct the legal process by threatening victims or witnesses. Those held guilty of such activity can be jailed for three to five years.

Source: The Indian Express

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